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Match Analysis

Going against the grain

Mumbai Indians took the final by the scruff of the neck and left the Chennai Super Kings with too much to do on a wicket that had slowed down over the course of the game

Mumbai Indians' early onslaught put Chennai Super Kings on the back foot right from the start  •  BCCI

Mumbai Indians' early onslaught put Chennai Super Kings on the back foot right from the start  •  BCCI

This has been the best year for teams batting first Also, Chennai Super Kings have traditionally relied on amassing a huge total before their bowlers put the opposition under stress by exploiting the scoreboard pressure.
MS Dhoni, though, thought otherwise ahead of the second Qualifier in Ranchi and was proved right, even if only by a whisker. But, after winning the toss and opting to field again in the final in Kolkata, he wouldn't go on to defy the numbers for the second time in a row.
Chennai Super Kings wouldn't have expected their opponents to post the score they did. Their head coach, Stephen Fleming, later said they would have batted first in hindsight because "of the way they played." The decision to bowl, he said, was dictated by the "fresh wicket and a good amount of grass."
"Everything suggested [that we] bowl [first]. What we didn't expect is the inconsistency [in the surface]," Fleming said. "We were playing catch up and that can also make conditions look a little bit worse than what it was."
False dawn(s)
When Faf du Plessis' loopy, reverse flick found the stumps to catch Parthiv Patel short of his crease in the first over, it appeared that the stage was set for Super Kings to chip away. But then, Rohit Sharma and Lendl Simmons ransacked 119 runs in 11.1 overs to unhinge Super Kings.
But, when Rohit and Simmons were out in successive deliveries - Simmons to Dwayne Smith's first ball in this year's competition - Super Kings, like they have so often done in the past, surely had a shot at crippling the scoring-rate. Kieron Pollard and Ambati Rayudu, however, put paid to that line of thinking with a belligerent middle-overs assault.
Contrasting support cast
One of the key differentiators at the end of the game was the performance of the Indian bowlers. None of Super Kings' Indian bowlers went for less than nine runs an over. In sharp contrast, the likes of Vinay Kumar and Hardik Pandya, apart from Harbhajan Singh, provided excellent back-up to the pace pairing of Lasith Malinga and Mitchell McClenaghan.
Mumbai Indians also read the conditions better, their bowlers dealing in skiddy cutters just outside off stump. Pandya, in particular, troubled Dhoni with deliveries that pinged back in from just short of a length.
Smith's crawl and a limp Powerplay
As often as getting out at the wrong moment is denounced, it's probably just as important in T20 cricket for a struggling batsman to depart at the right moment without wasting deliveries. The opposite of that happened to Super Kings.
Smith and Michael Hussey raised the anxiety levels in their dugout, as only 31 runs were mustered in the Powerplay. Hussey, at one stage, failed to put bat on ball for more than three balls in a row. However, he got out in the fifth over, ceding the stage to others who could charge the run-rate.
Smith's innings, however, was a tenuous battle between runs scored and balls faced. Smith batted till the 12th over to score 57 in 48 balls, and when he looked set to take off, he was trapped in front by Harbhajan.
Pace aces
While a target of 203 was intimidating, Mumbai still needed to back that up with some aggressive bowling upfront given the small boundaries and the quick outfield. Malinga and McClenaghan provided just that. Bristling with purpose, they sent down four overs in the Powerplay, catching the Super Kings openers by surprise with their pace. Malinga's sleight of hand as he varied his trajectory melded favourably with McClenaghan's unrelenting pace. When they returned to bowl in the middle overs, they merely had to slam the door shut on the opposition.

Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo